63. Indian Commissioner Mix on Reservation Policy, November 6, 1858
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92 63. Indian Commissioner Mix on Reservation Policy Extract from the Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs November 6, 1858 Commissioner of Indian Affairs Charles E. Mix in 1858 discussed problems concerning the development of reservation policy in the West. . . . . From the commencement of the settlement of this country, the principle has been recognised and acted on, that the Indian tribes possessed the occupant or usufruct right to the lands they occupied, and that they were entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of that right until they were fairly and justly divested of it. Hence the numerous treaties with the various tribes, by which, for a stipulated consideration their lands have, from time to time, been acquired, as our population increased. Experience has demonstrated that at least three serious, and, to the Indians, fatal errors have, from the beginning, marked our policy towards them, viz: their removal from place to place as our population advanced; the assignment to them of too great an extent of country, to be held in common; and the allowance of large sums of money, as annuities, for the lands ceded by them. These errors, far more than the want of capacity on the part of the Indian, have been the cause of the very limited success of our constant efforts to domesticate and civilize him. By their frequent changes of position and the possession of large bodies of land in common, they have been kept in an unsettled condition and prevented from acquiring a knowledge of separate and individual property, while their large annuities, upon which they have relied for a support, have not only tended to foster habits of indolence and profligacy, but constantly made them the victims of the lawless and inhuman sharper and speculator. The very material and marked difference between the northern Indians and those of the principal southern tribes, may be accounted for by the simple fact that the latter were permitted, for long periods, to remain undisturbed in their original locations; where, surrounded by, or in close proximity with a white population , they, to a considerable extent, acquired settled habits and a knowledge of and taste for civilized occupations and pursuits. Our present policy, as you are aware, is entirely the reverse of that heretofore pursued in the three particulars mentioned. It is to permanently locate the different tribes on reservations embracing only sufficient land for their actual occupancy; to divide this among them in severalty, and require them to live upon and cultivate the tracts assigned to them; and in lieu of money annuities, to furnish them with stock animals, agricultural implements , mechanic-shops, tools and materials, and manual labor schools for the industrial and mental education of their youth. Most of the older treaties, however, provide for annuities in money, and the department has, therefore , no authority to commute them even in cases where the Indians may desire, or could be influenced to agree to such a change. In view of this fact, and the better to enable the department to carry out its present and really more benevolent policy, I would respectfully recommend and urge that a law be enacted by Congress, empowering and requiring the department, in all cases where money annuities are provided for by existing treaties, and the assent of the Indians can be obtained, to commute them for objects and purposes of a beneficial character. The principle of recognising and respecting the usufruct right of the Indians to the lands occupied by them, has not been so strictly adhered to in the case of the tribes in the Territories of Oregon and Washington . When a territorial government was first provided for Oregon, which then embraced the present Territory of Washington, strong inducements were held out to our people to emigrate and settle there, without the usual arrangements being made, in advance, for the extinguishment of the title of the Indians who occupied and claimed the lands. Intruded upon, ousted of their homes and possessions without any compensation, and deprived, in most cases, of their accustomed means of support, without any arrangement having been made to enable them to establish and maintain themselves in other locations, 93 it is not a matter of surprise that they have committed many depredations upon our citizens , and been exasperated to frequent acts of hostility. The Indians in Oregon and Washington number about 42,000, and are divided into 35 tribes and bands. The only treaties in force with any of them...


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